Sat, Sep 16, 1:11am by Staff Writer
An under-strength Australia faces a tough assignment when it takes on India in the first of five one-day internationals in Chennai on Sunday.
And there is plenty on the line on the subcontinent with the side that wins the series taking top spot in the ODI rankings, while Australia risks dropping to fourth with a loss.
After narrowly avoiding a humiliating test series loss to Bangladesh last week, Australia is understandably the underdog especially with its top two one-day bowlers, Josh Hazelwood and Mitchell Starc, out with injuries.
India is the William Hill $1.67 favourite to open the series with a win at MA Chidambaram Stadium, with Australia on $2.20.
Pat Cummins will spearhead the Australian bowling attack in the absence of the injured pair and while Nathan Coulter-Nile is a seasoned ODI performer, James Faulkner has been found wanting against India in the past.
Hilton Cartwright has never played a limited overs international and will be tested by the Indian top order, while Kane Richardson’s move from domestic to international cricket is yet to prove a success.
Spin duo Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa will be sweating on seeing how the Chennai pitch responds to slow bowling.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Aussies.
Captain Steve Smith, David Warner, Travis Head and allrounder Marcus Stoinis brought up half centuries in a 103-run victory over an Indian Board President’s XI this week, in which Agar claimed four wickets.
Selectors are also increasingly optimistic that opener Aaron Finch will recover from an injured calf muscle in time for the match.
There have been seven bilateral ODI series between India and Australia on Indian soil, with Australia winning four and the hosts three.
Most recently, Australia lost the 2013/14 series 3-2 and the 2010/11 series 1-0, while winning 4-2 in 2009/10.
While Australia is tipped to lose Sunday, Warner’s form makes the $2.10 on offer for Australia to hit the most sixes a tempting bet, with India paying $2.
The two teams are both paying $1.83 for the highest first 15 overs, as well as the highest opening partnership.
Another positive development for the tourists is the news that Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan will not take part in first three ODI as he tends to his unwell wife.
Dhawan scored an unbeaten 132 and 49 in the first two ODIs against Sri Lanka in the just completed series, before managing just nine runs in the third and fourth match.
Dhawan is expected to return for the final two games in Bengaluru and Nagpur before the two teams take part in a three-match Twenty20 series.
MA Chidambaram Stadium is home to Indian Premier League side the Chennai Super Kings and has flipped between favouring the quicks and spinners depending on the strengths of the Super Kings and India. At present, the pitch is thought to offer most to the fast bowlers.
The first ODI gets underway at 6pm Sunday AEST.
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